Interview – Linda Kovic-Skow, author of French Illusions
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Linda Kovic-Skow, author of French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley. Welcome to The Showcase lounge, Linda. Can we get you anything?
Linda Kovic-Skow: Hmm…I’d love either a café au lait café or a glass of Sauvignon Blanc—depending on the time of day, of course.
SPS: For any of our readers that haven’t come across your work previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about yourself?
LKS: I’m originally from Seattle, but now I winter in Gilbert, Arizona and spend summers on a boat in the San Juan Islands. I earned an Associate Degree in Medical Assisting in 1978 from North Seattle Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Seattle University in 1985. I’ve been married for 29 years, have two daughters and a Shetland sheepdog, named Abby. I’m an enthusiastic traveller, but I also enjoy boating, hiking, gardening and socializing with friends. French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley, is my debut memoir.
SPS: What are your perfect writing conditions, and how often do you write?
LKS: I write best in a separate bedroom at my house, free of background noise, especially radio or television. I like to alternate between a standing station and a desk, otherwise I’ll get a kink in my neck. There are Post-it notes on both keyboards that read “two pages a day,” although that’s not always possible.
SPS: Why do you believe you have chosen to write in the genres that you have?
LKS: About five years ago, after my husband and I dropped our youngest daughter off at college, I went through a sort of mid-life crisis. I missed being a mom and I wondered how I would fill the void. Sure I had my part-time bookkeeping business at the time, but it consumed only a few hours a day and it wasn’t interesting any more. Something was missing, but what?
This prompted me to review what I like to call my “mid-life list.” This is similar to a “bucket list,” with an important twist. The idea was to refocus myself and figure out the things I wanted to do with my life in my fifties – while I could still do them. My list was short.
-Learn to play the piano
-Travel to Africa to see the elephants
-Travel to Tahiti and see the island of Bora Bora
-Travel back to France (with my family this time)
-Write a book
I didn’t own a piano, and with two daughters in college, I couldn’t afford a trip to Africa or Tahiti. I had already travelled back to France in 2001 with my family, so that left me to examine the fifth item on my list more closely. If I did write a book, would it be fiction or non-fiction? What genre would I choose?
The answers to my questions came to me in the shower (which is where many of my ideas seem to materialize, strangely enough). I decided to hunt down my diary from my au pair adventure in France and compose a memoir. It took me three years and countless hours to write my memoir, but now I can scratch another item off my mid-life list.
SPS: Can you tell us a little about your memoir, French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley?
LKS: In the summer of 1979, when I was twenty-one and working as a medical assistant, I wanted a career change. My resume landed me an interview with World Airways, but they required all of their flight attendants to speak a second language, so I contracted to become an au pair for a wealthy French family. To secure the position, I pretended to speak the language—fully aware that my lie would be discovered once I arrived at my destination. Crazy, right? When you’re young, sometimes you do some really stupid things and then they turn into good stories. Based on my diary, my memoir recounts my real-life adventure in France, inside and outside the Château de Montclair.
SPS: Was this a difficult book to write?
LKS: I have to admit writing my memoir was a lot more complex than I initially imagined it would be. My diary offered a great outline, but I had to research, and fill in, hard-to-find data on the Loire Valley, the Loire River and the town of Tours. Internet searches produced most of the information and travel books supplied the rest. From the beginning, difficult questions emerged, such as how to deal with the French sprinkled throughout the book, and how I to format my internal thoughts. Oh, and I really struggled with how much detail to include in my own love scenes. Wiping the sweat off my brow, I wrote and then rewrote these scenes until I could read them without squirming in my seat.
SPS:Do you have a favorite chapter in the book? Why?
LKS: Yes—my favorite chapters to write came in the last section of my memoir. Throughout most of the story, circumstances required me to internalize my discontent and unhappiness with my life at the Château de Montclair. Within these last pages, I finally had the opportunity to expose my true feelings in vivid scenes filled with passion and drama. It was a thrilling, rewarding experience.
SPS: Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?
LKS: Yes, it was a fun project and you’ll find my video at my website. I searched the internet for weeks to find the right photos to include and even filled in with a few of my own from 1979. Finding the right French music was a bit more difficult. When I stumbled upon “Imposture” by Danielle Pauly, from the album Café de Paris, my heart lurched. I loved the melody. I wasn’t sure what the title meant in French so I looked up the translation. It meant “fraud.” The song was perfect.
SPS: Does your book have an underlying message that readers should know about?
LKS: Set in the beautiful Loire Valley, French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley, will remind readers what it was like to be young, adventurous and filled with dreams. It’s not too late to create your own memories so go out and explore the world. Life’s for living, after all.
SPS: What is the most frustrating part of being an author?
There are so many unknowns and so much to learn after you self-publish a book. Constant questions come up and answers are elusive in the beginning, especially if it’s your first attempt. What are the best promotions for authors? How do I get more readers to write reviews? How do I get more followers to my Facebook Fan Page? How can I find the best connections on Twitter? Authors want to write, but we have to understand that promotion is just as important. Fortunately, the internet offers a wealth of information. I search my subject, click on links to blogs or discussions and slowly, over time, I gain knowledge and my frustrations fade.
SPS: What is the most rewarding part of being an author?
LKS: My memoir is filled with detailed descriptions of remarkable places, customs and foods from the Loire Region in France. I wanted readers to experience this beautiful part of the world even if they are unable to travel and see it for themselves. Once I created my book and put it out there to the world, I hoped, more than anything else, that people would enjoy it. Positive reviews, whether voiced or written, put me over the moon with happiness.
SPS: What’s next for you?
LKS: I’m currently writing my sequel, French Illusions: From Tours to Paris. This book, also based on my diary, completes my journey and answers all remaining questions surrounding my trip to France in 1979. My target date for publication is late 2014.
SPS: Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always your preferred route for your work?
LKS: No,I made a half-hearted attempt to find a publisher in the beginning. I fashioned a query letter and emailed selected agents specifically interested in memoirs. None of them responded favorably, but it didn’t matter. I had already moved on with plans to self-publish.
SPS: Has the experience so far been all that you thought it would be?
LKS: No! I had no idea how long it would take to self-publish my book. Everything took longer than I thought it would. French Illusions was a highly complicated edit given the foreign setting. It took three different editors nine months to complete the process. Three more months passed while my publisher created the cover and produced the interior parts of the hard copy book. Another month slid by while my eBook was created. Formatting issues ate up another month. It was a long, drawn-out process that kept me up nights. Thank goodness the writing is progressing faster with my sequel.
SPS: If you could give one piece of advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
LKS: Once you complete your manuscript, hire a professional editor. I mean it. You can’t edit your own book. You won’t see the mistakes because you are too close to the writing. It will cost you a few hundred dollars for a line editor, a bit more if you need some in-depth editing, but it’s the best money you will ever spend. I cringe every time I read a negative review of another author’s book where the main complaint is formatting, spelling or punctuation. You want readers to judge you solely on the content of your story.
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
LKS: I would like to introduce readers to Kaylan Doyle, a remarkable author who took me under her wing and helped me grow into the writer I am today. Her new dystopian novel is called The Great Awful.Fans of this genre won’t be able to put it down.
SPS: Thank you for joining us today Linda, and all the best for the future.
LKS: Merci. I really enjoyed answering all your questions.
SPS: For more information on Linda and her work, please do visit her Showcase Author page here.